If Peter Drucker is right and culture really does eat strategy for breakfast, chief HR officers can expand their influence with C-suite colleagues. As the leader responsible for creating and maintaining corporate culture, the CHRO has a unique perspective on the enterprise that’s valuable to other functional areas.
“If the workforce enjoys working, then they will be engaged and motivated, which in turn drives performance,” explains Paul Burrin, vice president of Sage People. “They need to be able to see how their values align to the company’s purpose and that the culture is supportive of this. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that customers will be enjoying great experiences if employees are not motivated.”
This is why the role of the CHRO has evolved into an adviser, confidant and thought partner to the C-suite. Here are five ways to enhance or establish yourself in that role:
- Ask smart questions and listen. Get to know your peers so you can help them be successful. “No one knows everything, which is why we have different people with different backgrounds and experiences working within our organizations,” says John Petrov, senior vice president and CHRO for CHI Saint Joseph Health. “Whether it’s diversity from a physical perspective, experience or thought, we have a lot to gain by sharing and learning from others. It’s important to bounce ideas off of one another and it’s OK to say you don’t know something but you can look into it and find out more.”
- Get involved. Collaborating with other leaders on operational issues enables you to build trust and rapport. “HR and people leaders can offer insights on issues that others might not have thought of — for example, identifying skills gaps and creating the necessary plans to close these; or reducing the time and cost of hiring and onboarding by creating a seamless process,” Burrin says.
- Expand your functional knowledge. “It’s imperative for CHROs to understand more than HR,” Petrov says. “They need to understand the many facets of the business that they are in and the work that others — and especially their peers — are doing.”
Read up on other areas or take a workshop or weekend class to grow your knowledge of the other functional areas; maybe even consider an MBA program.
- Be a thought leader. Share the latest insights on culture, recruiting, talent management and retention as they pertain to the entire organization and each functional area. Burrin suggests “leading from the front, challenging the status quo, offering new solutions to problems, focusing on employees and customers rather than HR transactions, and being the face of change within the business.”
- Champion change. “We are experiencing change within our workplaces at an accelerated pace these days,” Petrov says. “It’s important to not approach things from a black and white perspective — leading HR today is more about navigating in the gray. Be ambitious, courageous, flexible, open to new ideas and suggestions and help drive change — not resist it.”
Engaging in these tactics, Petrov notes, “will earn a lot of trust and respect, and the more trusted and respected you are, the more you will be sought out as an advisor to the C-suite.”